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Concert features American Youth Symphony, renowned pianist

The American Youth Symphony will perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with 25-year-old guest pianist Natasha Paremski, who received the Young Artist Award of 2010 from the Classical Recording Foundation.

(Courtesy of Cecily Lerner)

By Brendan Hornbostel

Nov. 15, 2012 11:52 p.m.

A tranquil meadow thrust ablaze by raw, orchestral anger emanating from the piano, regaining serenity for a brief moment as the woodwinds and strings color the tragic landscape, before an explosion of symphonic emotion tears the world to pieces.

Such is the atmosphere that will seize the stage when Russian-born pianist Natasha Paremski and the American Youth Symphony perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The American Youth Symphony, led by music director Alexander Treger since 1998 and comprising 100 young musicians in Southern California, brings yet another performance to Royce Hall Sunday, with the noted pianist Paremski as its special guest.

“There’s always something new to be discovered in every performance. It allows me to express myself, and it allows me to reach people and move people.” Paremski said. “Sometimes we find something in music that suddenly brings clarity to parts of our own life experience.”

Alongside performances with the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, recordings with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and major tours throughout Europe and the United States, 25-year-old Paremski has already established herself in the realm of classical music, receiving high praise as the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of 2010. Treger said he is looking forward to working with the pianist, who is sure to bring a style all her own to the classic piano piece.

“To me, (piano) is the most versatile instrument, and it’s very autonomous,” Paremski said. “It’s the music that I play on it that draws me to it, even more so than the instrument itself.”

The symphony will perform a range of American and Russian pieces, from Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto to symphonic dances, capturing the link between the classic and the contemporary. The symphony will begin the concert with an overture from Samuel Barber’s “The School for Scandal,” before welcoming Paremski to perform the piano concerto from Tchaikovsky.

After intermission the symphony will finish the concert with contemporary dances from the musical, “West Side Story.” Written by Leonard Bernstein, the “West Side Story” dances are known to attract the same enthusiasm from an audience that is present onstage, Treger said.

The symphonic dances of “West Side Story” that will be performed include some of the most famous pieces from the musical, including “Mambo” and “Cha-Cha.” The pieces are taken directly from the musical, giving the audience the orchestral coloring of Tony and Maria’s tragic love.

“It’s a really accessible program because a lot of people grew up going to see musicals, and I think a lot of people can relate to “˜West Side Story,'” said Sean Fischer, a cello performance graduate student who has been a section cellist with the American Youth Symphony for three years.

Treger’s selection for the upcoming concert derives from different spectrums of classical music. All three pieces blend over the compass of classical music, forming a setlist that draws on different cultures and time periods. The mix of Russian and American music is one that distinctly represents the pairing of the American Youth Symphony’s orchestration with Paremski’s piano.

Despite the recognition and success Paremski’s piano has received, she said she still remembers vividly a time away from the piano after immigrating to the United States. Her family could not afford a piano, and Paremski went more than a year without playing. After seeing a recital by pianist Evgeny Kissin at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco when she was 8, however, she said she knew that she wanted to someday perform on that stage.

“It wasn’t just the piano that was missing from my life. I missed performing. I wanted to reach people from the stage,” Paremski said. “That was really the moment that I decided to commit to the path of this


Six years later her dreams became reality, she said, when she performed with the San Francisco Symphony as a young teenager, playing Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto. Ever since that first performance, Paremski has made the piece her staple.

“First of all, it’s very idiosyncratically Russian music. It’s extremely personal and very intimate at times. It takes you through a huge range of the human emotion,” Paremski said. “From the regal opening that only occurs twice, to the woodwinds introducing the third scene, it’s incredibly poignant and really melancholy. And then it evolves into this extremely raw and passionate and almost angry explosion of emotions.”

The piece’s ability to reach all types of people, especially the younger generation, is accomplished primarily through stage presence, Paremski said.

“It touches the breadth of human experience,” Paremski said. “If you just simply listen, and allow yourself to be moved, then it doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are, what background you come from. This music actually brings us all together; it’s our international language.”

When the American Youth Symphony takes the stage with Paremski, for all in attendance, there will no longer exist a boundary between the audience and the stage. Paremski said she is sure her stage presence will take care of it.

“I propose taking (the music) back to its roots,” Paremski said. “A lot of the music was meant for intimate settings, premiered in salons. We’re both just admiring this music, from slightly different angles. And that’s what breaks down the fourth wall.”

Email Hornbostel at [email protected].

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Brendan Hornbostel
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